I could feel the anxiety in my chest and I had my book in my hand so I decided to stay on the bus. Maybe because it was Oklahoma, or incredibly windy, or the dark clouds and my fear of tornadoes. But the bus had air conditioning and I lost my hair tie earlier that day.
Someone else stayed on the bus too; he had a phone call and then never bothered to leave. He spotted me in the back and wanted to talk. He looked about my age, tall, with a ring on his left hand. I noticed a lot of young men were married in Oklahoma, I guessed there was nothing else to do. I suppose the loves of your life are limited if you choose to stay in one place.
He asked where my favorite city I’d ever been to was. I told him Paris, because we had yet to stop in Pittsburgh. If he asked me that question now it would be Pittsburgh, sitting on the rock next to the river. That was the second time in my life I never wanted to leave. I told him I cried when the Eiffel Tower lit up at night, he replied he had only left Oklahoma once. He could do his job everywhere, but he pointed to his ring mumbling that’s how life works out.
He said he wished he could go anywhere and wondered where I wished to go. My mother always told me to never wish my life away. I stopped using that word when I realized that wishing doesn’t matter, it’s doing which makes a difference. Then I remembered he used to tell me he wished I was there. He would come over after a night out softly whispering it into my ear. My first lesson on drunken words being drunken words, we don’t always mean what we say. Late at night is when you are vulnerable, the stars blanket honesty. You rarely mean the words you form. That was the first time I never wanted to leave.
We talked about what we were good at. I said having feelings that don’t make sense and running away. He said his wife was really good at having them too. He was married at 20 and is 22, well likely 23. We talked about how our birthdays marked the end of summer. He said he wasn’t too sure about souls anymore, but church is what they had in Oklahoma and who was he to argue.
The wind shook the bus as the clouds grew darker. He must have sensed my anxiety because of the story he told. When he was younger, he would stand against the wind when he was upset. If he wanted to cry, he would put out his arms and stay strong against the wind. He would stand there for a few moments letting the wind take his worries. Sometimes, he wished the wind would take him.
It was time to go back and he promised to read the essays I write. After leaving I almost missed him. Easy company from a stranger who liked to wish and still be here. My last night in Oklahoma, I sat outside of the hotel. I thought about leaving and who would notice if I disappeared. I thought about him and the man on the bus. I wanted to share my conversation with him, my thoughts about life outside of the bubbles we created. Life outside of my brain, outside of what I know. I wished he was there so I could tell him those beautiful things.
Instead, I let the wind take the wish and all I wanted to do was leave.